From the US to Vietnam with FedEx

This is a story of a letter from one of my banks to me. It may be the continuation of a yet longer story which could have started last year when I had to get a replacement debit card. I had the first one sent to Bangkok Thailand. Big mistake. It never did show up. Then I got fed up with Thailand and bailed to Siem Reap and tried again. This time I had DHL deliver from my mail forwarder in Texas. Four days later it was in my hands in Cambodia. Nice!

Now flash forward to this story. While not ending yet I am optimistic that today I will get a new debit card from FedEx. It’s here in Hanoi and in the vehicle. It’s getting closer. For two days though it languished here with a delivery exception. I would never have known since the bank never told me, FedEx did not have a phone number and claimed not to know how to deliver. So I called this morning and found out the issue. I let them know the address and my local Vietnamese phone number. Then the status changed to on the truck for delivery. Now I await its arrival. It could be any time today until 6pm. Or maybe not. Never really know until it’s delivered internationally.

There was another story when I shipped some sandals to Phnom Penh and they sat at the main post office for months. Finally I found what happened and a Khmer friend went to retrieve the package. All was good and I got the package months later. Yet another story was shipping to Siem Reap on FedEx and they did not want to deliver and stopped it at customs inspection. I am guessing they wanted some money. Since I could not make it to Phnom Penh Cambodian customs released it and it was given to a local shipper that let me know when it would come.

Moral of Story

There are a few. Never ship internationally with the US Postal Service if you have some desire of actually wanting the package. Choose instead DHL. They will do the work and tracking the package from departure to your door is really good. FedEx is a second choice. I have had mixed results with them.

A second little thing is maintaining US contact points. Keep a US phone number that can receive texts, calls, and voicemails. I suggest and recommend google voice for this. It’s free and works a treat on cellular or WiFi data wherever I have been. Also consider a good virtual mailbox. I suggest using US Global Mail to manage your physical mail. Change the address once to them and you get to use the address from wherever. They offer really good services to forward and combine packages too. Their service is meant for expats and retirees and they get lots of good reviews. I’ve been with them for years. Never sorry or had less than a stellar experience with their service.

Finally if you are making a decision to bail on the US and are retiring consider how you will manage your money. I strongly recommend two different bank accounts and tie them together so you can do ACH transfers. There is no point in using the debit cards as credit cards in Southeast Asia. Just get cash. It’s really much simpler than going to a 7/11 in Saigon and using plastic for a few beers and chips. That just seems crazy to me. Finally lock the debit cards when not in use. My process has been to normally lock them online on my iPhone and then unlock when using for withdrawals and then locking them again. Never just carry passports and wallets and credit or debit cards where you go. That is also very dumb. No one will ask for your visa or passport on the streets. There are some targeted things like hotels or SIM card purchases which may but I use the passport quickly and then return it to safety. Same with debit cards. Unlock them, take cash out, and lock again.

You can get by in Cambodia for a long time on $50. In Vietnam I carry about $100 in VND. When that depletes I get some more cash. You don’t need all the plastic and the fancy wallet and neck pouch here. Just carry the cash.

I’ve made mistakes and paid a few times when I went against my own advice and a card was fraudulently used. It’s more difficult by degrees in Hanoi Vietnam to replace things like debit cards. I will also get a local bank account here which is easy to do and just keep a few hundred dollars in VND in it.

These are all things you can just do to make things more enjoyable and lessen the stress and likelihood of having things snatched that are really hard to replace. I have lots of fun here in Hanoi on about $10. Dinner and beers and a coffee. Perhaps a meetup with a friend here to enjoy the beers. It’s not dirt cheap but I can get by a lot better without worrying about passports, wallets and plastic.